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Will New SEC Model Kill Georgia's Dominance?


Georgia dominance
© Joshua L. Jones/USA TODAY NETWORK

Georgia and coach Kirby Smart have dominated college football for the past three seasons, winning two national titles and finishing the regular season undefeated each year. While it is undeniable that Georgia is a formidable team with one of the best coaches, their success has been partly due to playing in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference. Georgia has also benefitted substantially from key injuries to opposing players at critical times.





Recent developments are likely to pose significant new challenges for the Bulldogs. Most notably, the recent expansion of the SEC and the elimination of divisions in the conference will test Georgia's ability to remain dominant.


SEC West vs. SEC East

Over the last three seasons, Georgia's SEC East opponents had an overall record of 120-109, including bowl games. During that same time, the SEC West teams had an overall record of 169-103. Thus, while Georgia's SEC East opponents had an aggregate 52.4 percent win rate, the SEC West teams had a much more stout 62.1 percent win rate.


Over the past three seasons, Georgia struggled with a 5-7 South Carolina team and a 6-7 Missouri team before securing fairly narrow victories. Also in the past three seasons, Georgia lost two out of three SEC Championship games to the top team from the West. The one SEC Championship the Bulldogs won came against a three-loss LSU team.



With a more competitive schedule in the newly expanded and division-less SEC, struggles and narrow wins could become losses for the Bulldogs.


Georgia Benefitted From Opponents' Injuries

In the 2021 season, after losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship game by a score of 41-24, Georgia faced Alabama in a rematch for the national title. Alabama entered that game missing key players due to injury. The Crimson Tide's No. 2 receiver, John Metchie III, and starting cornerbacks, Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis, were sidelined. Additionally, star wide receiver Jameson Williams went down early in the second quarter with an ACL injury, leaving Alabama to rely on inexperienced receivers for the rest of the game. Georgia went on to defeat the Crimson Tide by a score of 33-18 to win their first national title since 1980.



In the 2022 season, after going undefeated and winning the SEC, Georgia faced Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Ohio State led the game late in the third quarter by a score of 35-24 when their playmaker Marvin Harrison Jr. was knocked out of the game after a big hit in the end zone. Harrison was put into concussion protocol and did not return to the game. Before his injury, Harrison had caught 5 passes for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns. Georgia then had a stellar fourth quarter offensively, going up by two points late in the game, and ultimately won when Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles missed a 50-yard field goal attempt. Georgia moved on to face TCU in the national title game, walloping them 65-7 to secure their second title in as many years.



SEC Expansion, Elimination of Divisions

With the SEC adding college football blue bloods Texas and Oklahoma, the schedules for every team in the conference will become more difficult, including Georgia's. Also, with the elimination of divisions, Georgia will no longer benefit from annual matchups against erstwhile SEC East opponents like Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South Carolina. With a tougher schedule, the Bulldogs will have to bring their A-game week in and week out to continue the dominance to which fans in Athens have become accustomed over the last three seasons.


Conclusion

While Georgia has been the most dominant team in college football for the past three seasons, the Bulldogs have benefitted from scheduling, opponents' injuries and a little luck. While all three are part of the game of football, they cannot be counted on to maintain success in the long run.


Will Georgia's luck run out once they are forced to play a tougher schedule or will they prove their success over the last three years was no fluke? The answer to that question will not be known until the upcoming season is underway.



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